by Clarence Brown
American Reporter Correspondent
October 15, 2003
CUSTOM-MADE POSTCARDS FROM THE ILL AT EASE
SEATTLE, Wash.--I am subject, increasingly it seems, to tiny waking hallucinations or dreams or fantasies...whatever...to which I have given the shorthand name PFH, which stands for Postcards from Hell. Let me acknowledge en passant my indebtedness to Wallace Stevens' "A Postcard from the Volcano."
A PFH is not really so disturbing as the name might suggest. Often, perhaps most often, it is merely amusing. But I must confess that I sometimes wonder whether my amusement is not a way of shielding myself from a darker meaning.
Anyhow, for the psychofans among my readers, here is a selection from among the more printable PFHs.
Constant readers might recall Michael the homeless man, to whom I used to give money once a day on average. He knew my schedule, I knew his stations, we met and chatted briefly while I slipped him the currency. I use the past tense here because he has not been around for months now.
But to the PFH. I ask Michael where he is from. He answers: "South Carolina - don't the accent give me away?" Trying to seem nonchalant, I say, "Really, where in South Carolina?" He says, "Oh, nowhere you've heard of - little dump called Anderson." I am depending on regular readers to know that that is my hometown.
As they are loading me into the ambulance, I am vaguely aware of Michael frantically explaining that he never laid a hand on me. End of PFH.
This particular item has been with me long enough to earn a kind of interpretation. It has long seemed to me that Michael the homeless drifter and I, the emeritus professor, are separated by the thinnest lamina of existence. Somewhere a gene slipped in my favor, and in Michael's disfavor. Of one thing I am sure: were our present roles reversed, Michael would be as generous to me as I try to be to him.
Another. Much against my better judgment, I finally reply to one of the hundreds of spammers offering to enlarge one of my body parts. I receive and swallow the pills. My nose-the part in question, what were you thinking?-starts to grow. I feel easier about my appearance and discard the mask. But my nose keeps growing. When it has reached my chin, I discontinue the medication, comfortable with myself at last.
A baseball PFH which came to me on the last day that the Mariners played the game this season, the game that sealed their fate-until next year. The scene is Safeco Field, of course. Ichiro Suzuki, the leadoff batter in most lineups and the right fielder whose domain has the local designation of "Area 51" from his number, was slumping badly at the end.
In this PFH Ichiro walks with an unaccustomed stiffness to the right field. Once there, he bows ceremoniously to the fans in all four directions of the compass, takes from his trousers the long knife that caused his stiff walk, kneels, and commits hari-kiri. The stunned silence of the fans is worse than a howl.
Finally, Dr. Soup taps with faintly disturbing softness on my door. Yes? I ask. The cab from Trenton is here, he says. You mean...? Yes, he says, barely able to conceal his mirth. You are going back to Perry Street. And don't ask-they'll tell you in good time. The man in the white coat is your driver. Sweet dreams! Clarence Brown is a cartoonist, writer, and Professor Emeritus of Comparative Literature at Princeton University.